This context study focuses on the historical development of the Colorado state road and highway system. These are the state and federal roads and highways over which the Colorado Department of Transportation and its predecessor agencies have or once had authority for planning, construction or maintenance.
The context traces the beginnings of intercity roads and presents the changing political, economic and engineering climate in which these roads became state and federal highways. Central to this story is the state highway department. This organization, through all its organizational and personnel incarnations, came to assume the primary role in planning, building, maintaining and operating the state’s highway system.
This historic context does not include a discussion of roadside commercial or residential architecture. For example, the history and architecture of gas stations, diners and motels is not addressed. Substantial bridges are also excluded as these were extensively addressed in an earlier historic context, Highway Bridges in Colorado. Historic trails are covered briefly as antecedents to automobile roads and highways.
This study is not intended to be a complete history of Colorado highways, highway transportation, or the Colorado Department of Transportation and its precursor agencies. Rather, it focuses on roads and highways now or previously in the state highway system. It only briefly discusses roads and highways built or maintained by county and local governments. The state highway context is intended to provide information for the specific purpose of evaluating the National Register of Historic Places eligibility of Colorado state roads and highways.